Only you can decide how much you can and want to spend while on exchange. Set a budget for yourself and stick to it. You do not want to be stranded abroad without any money.

Do some research on living costs in your host country and use the budget form below to draw up a monthly budget for your exchange.  These websites provide some interesting information on the cost of living across the world and comparisons between home and host countries:

Visit the respective consulate / embassy websites to ascertain the minimum required funds needed for the visa application.

Other informational resources for living costs:

 The first few weeks will have a lot of small (and some bigger) expenses. Be sure that you have extra cash for this time, or bridging funding for the first 1 – 2 months. These expenses can include amongst other things linen, registration fees for clubs, etc. Try to stretch your money as much as possible, so that you have more left for travelling and gifts.


Typically these are the items to budget for:

Item Amount
Incidental costs
Insurance (if not paid upfront)
Other (eg. accounts at home)
Total R / $ _________

You can always download a budget template, and adjust it to your needs.

Find out from your host coordinator about student jobs (applicable to semester exchange students). The number of hours you are allowed to work is determined by your visa. A job as a waitress or assistant will help to cover your expenses and give you a little extra to spend on travelling. Sometimes the International Office at your host institution arranges part-time jobs for exchange students. Don’t however rely on these jobs because it might not be possible at your particular host institution.

Bank Cards and ATM’s:

Take only the cards you will use on the trip. Keep a separate list of the cards, their numbers and emergency replacement procedures.

Make sure that you know what the limits and bank costs for your debit or credit cards are. Also inform your bank of your period abroad and enquire about specific conditions for using your cards abroad. It is always important to use 2-factor authorization, but keep in mind that generally you will not be able to use your home phone number when you are abroad (unless you make use of roaming services), and will therefore not be able to receive the required pin code for doing online banking. For this reason also activate other more travel friendly options for authorizations purposes.

You might also consider opening a bank account in your host country (in many cases this will be required for the visa or scholarship from the host institution). The duration of your stay and the cost of transferring money will have an impact on your decision. Opening a bank account might however be a requirement of your bursary/stipend/meal voucher of your host institution. Once again discuss this with your host coordinator.

Cash Passport:

A cash passport is another convenient way of having money available during your period abroad without having to travel with large amounts of cash. Cash passports are prepaid foreign currency cards that can be used to withdraw money or can be used to pay directly. Cash Passport is available at numerous banks and bureaux de change, including ABSA, Bidvest, FNB, American Express Retail Foreign Exchange (Tourvest) and Travelex Retail Foreign Exchange (FX Africa).

Foreign Currency:

Check the exchange rate throughout your exchange and draw extra money when the exchange rate is lower.

There is no need to exchange large amounts of foreign currency before your departure. Travelling with large amounts of money is dangerous and in most countries it is easy to draw cash at an ATM. Exchange a small amount to cover expenses like meals and taxi fare from the airport to your accommodation or hostel.

 TIPS for making your money go further:

  • Buy where the locals buy – ask your fellow students where to find the best priced markets and shops
  • Draw up a monthly budget and keep track of your spending
  • Share the cost of food by cooking together (This is also a great way to learn about the local dishes and to make some of your own specialities) See the section on Fun for some traditional South African recipes
  • Look for the freebies. Many cities and towns have parks, markets and other fun activities that you can take part in without it costing you a lot of money
  • Look for special deals on transportation like a monthly ticket instead of individual rides or get yourself a bike if your host environment allows for it
  • If the cultural norms of your host country allows for it, don’t hesitate to bargain and haggle about the price of items you are buying
  • Avoid spending a lot of money on transport by walking or using a bicycle (this is also a great way to see your new environment)
  • Plan your travels:
    • A night bus or train is cheaper than flying and you also save on a night’s accommodation
    • Look for midweek specials
    • Use youth hostels and backpackers for affordable accommodation

Some tips from Past Exchange Students:

Don’t drink! 🙂
Make your own food at home, do not go to restaurants.
Plan ahead of time so you have enough money before you go. Look online and research what you would like to do or see while you are there then try to book tickets ahead of time to save money. Also then you can plan around the things you really want to see or do.
Eat the subsidized student lunches and dinners (at cafeterias)
NEVER eat take-aways
Try to avoid accommodation in a hotel as far as possible i.e. do not arrive before your accommodation available.
Get a local job. Make lots of generous friends!
Reduce on leisure activities and unplanned shopping.
Create a budget for yourself, and stick to it. Plan trips in advance so that you can plan your money accordingly.
Keep in mind the exchange rate and always convert to Rands when considering buying something. The amount in dollars can be deceiving.
Don’t spend money on things you don’t need at the time. Rather save some money and spend money on weekend trips and traveling.
If you are studying and living with other students it helps to share things such as cleaning products, kitchen utensils, etc. We also did our laundry together and split the costs. Eat out as little as you can, it is cheaper to buy food at bigger supermarkets and prepare it yourself. If you are traveling far, cheap flights are often cheaper than taking the bus of train. Bus is also cheaper than train. Buy your warm clothes overseas. You might pay the same amount, but the quality that you get for your money is much better in countries with colder weather.
Try using a bicycle instead of public transport to get around town – public transport in the Netherlands can get quite expensive after a while. Also, try to find a decent and affordable supermarket. Maybe try to buy your vegetables at the local market if possible.
Make sure you have had time to compare prices. Get a local to show you which shops offer the best prices.
Prepare yourself upon arrival to need a lot of things for the accommodation. The rooms are not equipped with anything other than a fridge, so there is no appliances or bedding. Try and get this second-hand or from the 1 euro shop in the city. Always use the public transport on the times that it is indicated to be free for students. A lot of savings are available for students so always ask for the reduced fees. Also, use a public medical aid and not a private one.
Even though the cafeteria serves cheap-ish food, I tried to pack lunch (that I’ve made at home) every second day or so (which truly saves a lot of money). When traveling over weekends, I always tried to find people who would like to go with me, as the tickets for people traveling together are a lot cheaper than individual tickets…
Textbooks are a big expense! Sometimes lecturers prescribe textbooks and then they don’t even use them. So try to find out if it is really necessary to get it. Then you can save money by buying textbooks secondhand at the on campus Clemson bookstore/ebay/amazon. There are also other suppliers, just google it. You can also sell the books back to the bookstore. Alternatively you can rent the textbooks also at the on campus bookstore or amazon.